Spam, What is it Good for, Absolutely Nothing!

by Jay B Stockman

Over time, unless the growth of spam isn\'t stopped, it will destroy the usefulness and effectiveness of email as a communication tool.

Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE), or spam has reached epidemic proportions, and continues to grow. According to American Online, of the estimated 30 million email messages each day, about 30% on average was unsolicited commercial email. As a result of its very low marginal costs, spam has become extremely prolific. Regardless of how many emails are sent out, the spammers\' costs are low, and constant. With numbers like these, there is a tremendous burden shifted to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to process and store that amount of data. Huge volumes of this junk may undoubtedly contribute to many of the access, speed, and reliability problems suffered by many ISPs. Further, many large ISPs have experienced major system outages as the result of massive junk email campaigns. Spam is an issue about consent, not content. Regardless of whether the UCE message is an advertisement, porn, or a winning lottery notice, the content is irrelevant. If the message was sent unsolicited, and in bulk then the message is spam.

This junk e-mail is more than just annoying; it costs Internet users, and Internet-based businesses millions, even billions, per year. When a spammer sends an email message to a million people, it is carried by numerous electronic systems on route to its destination. The systems in between are bearing the burden of carrying advertisements, and other unsolicited junk for the spammer. The number of spams sent out each day is truly overwhelming, and each one must be handled efficiently, and expeditiously by many systems. There is no justification for forcing third parties to bear the load of unsolicited advertising. Ultimately, these costs are passed on to YOU, the consumer.

Spam originates in one of two ways, it is sent directly by the spammer from and under their control, or via illegal third party exploitation such as open proxies or open relays. Spammers get your address in a variety of ways. If you sign up for, and provide your email address, these seemingly friendly sites can turn around and sell your email to advertisers. Additionally, if you have your email address on a Web page, it is easy for unscrupulous advertisers to \"harvest\" it, and add you to their lists.

There are ways to reduce the number of spam messages, however it is presently impossible to stop them all. Spam filters, are software applications that redirect emails based on the presence of certain common phrases, or words. These automated measures are prone to being defeated by clever spammers. Additionally, there is a risk of important emails being deleted as spam. In 2003, Congress passed a sweeping law, CAN-SPAM act of 2003, which basically prohibits the use of deceptive subject lines and false headers in all emails. Additionally, the FTC is authorized (but not required) to establish a do-not-email registry. The CAN-SPAM Act took effect on January 1, 2004.

Spam is based on theft of service; it wastes time, money, and other resources. Spam can and will overwhelm your electronic mail box if it isn\'t fought. Over time, unless the growth of spam isn\'t stopped, it will destroy the usefulness and effectiveness of email as a communication tool.